This Day In History: Castro Announces That He Is A Communist (1961)

Berlin: Castro / Die Partei- und Regierungsdelegationen unter Leitung des Ersten Sekretärs der KPK und Ministerpräsidenten der Revolutionären Regierung der Republik Kuba, Fidel Castro(M), besichtigte am 14.6.1972 die Staatsgrenze der DDR zu Westberlin. Die Delegation, von Werner Lamberz, Mitglied des Politbüros und Sekretär des ZK der SED (2.v.l.), und anderen Persönlichkeiten, begleitet, wurde von Generalleutnant Arthur Kunath, Satdtkommandant von Berlin (2.v.r.), informiert. Rechts: Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, Mitglied des Sekretariats des ZK der KPK und Minister der Revolutionären Regierung.

On this day in 1961, Fidel Castro stuns the world by declaring himself to be a Communist and that he was a follower of Marxism-Leninism.  The announcement shocked the US and it meant that there was a communist state in the western hemisphere, for the first time and one that was just 90 miles from Cuba This was to make a new stage in the relationship between Cuba and America and it means that the two nations were to be at loggerheads for 56 years.

Castro was born to a wealthy family in the south of Cuba. His father had been a Spanish soldier who had stayed in Cuba after the island had achieved independence. Castro at first was a nationalist and a reformer and he wanted an end to the unequal relationship between Cuba and Washington. In 1953 Castro and a group of radical attacked an army barracks to steal arms and to start an armed revolt. This failed and Castro was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was later exiled to Mexico, but he returned with Che Guevara and he started a revolt that ultimately led to the downfall of the dictatorship of Batista. There were tensions between Castro and Washington from the start as the Americans believed that he was too left-wing. Castro shocked American when he nationalized American companies in the country. He seized oil companies and farmland owned by foreigners.  Castro’s regime grew ever closer to the Soviet Union much to the alarm of the Americans. His government received economic and military aid from Moscow and was widely seen as a member of the Communist Bloc. By 1961 the US was sufficiently alarmed to let the CIA plan an invasion of Cuba. A force of anti-Castro Cubans were landed on the island. They were armed and trained by the CIA and their aim was to overthrow Castro. The Bay of Pigs Invasion took place with hundred of US backed rebels landing on the island. The invasion was quickly defeated and Castro led the Cuban army from a tank. The defeat was a huge embarrassment for the Kennedy Administration.

Castro (on the extreme) at a march in Havana. Che Guevara is shown in the center

On December the second, 1961, in response to the failed invasion and to an American embargo, Castro goes on Cuban Television and announces that he is a Communist. He stated in the broadcast

‘’Marxist-Leninist and shall be one until the end of my life.” Castro, however, never deviated from his declared principles, and ensured that Cuba became a Marxist state and he supported left-wing governments in Africa and supported left-wing revolutions in Central and South America.  Castro was also a central figure in the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was able to lead his country despite an American embargo and even after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Castro only stepped down from his office in 2006 and he died in November 2016.

U-2 photo of Cuban missile sites
U-2 photo of Cuban missile sites